I watch Doctor Who now. If I’m being honest, I watch Doctor Who a lot. If I’m being really honest, I am absolutely in love with this show (and I may have developed a bit of a binge-watching problem). I began watching it at the start of the school year and fell in love immediately. Soon words like “TARDIS,” “Time Lord,” “sonic screwdriver,” “psychic paper,” “Daleks,” and “Cybermen” had become a regular part of my vocabulary. However, this isn’t a piece about Doctor Who so much as it’s a reflection on falling in love with a show in isolation, completely removed from whatever fandom exists for the brilliant, beautiful world of the Doctor.
Doctor Who was always a glaring gap in my pop culture experience – like The Walking Dead used to be and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (regrettably) still is. It was this huge show with a massive following stretching back to it’s original first season in 1963…and I knew nothing about it. I was always intrigued but also intimidated about jumping in. I mean, that’s a lot of history to get caught up on. But my intimidation didn’t keep me away forever. Theresa (who’s one of my very best friends (and who I teach the science and religion course with)) loves the show and the ability to be able to geek out about it with her coupled with my longtime curiosity finally overcame my trepidation. I was starting Doctor Who. Now I’d finally see what I was missing out on and learn what the heck that blue phone booth thingie was.
I began with the modern Season One from 2005, with Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor and Billie Piper (who I’d only known from Penny Dreadful (which I love (and I think may be the most intelligent show I’ve ever seen on television (and is something I don’t think I’ll ever tire of re-watching))) as Rose. I rolled right into David Tennant’s three seasons as the Tenth Doctor – dealt with the unexpectedly heavy emotional fallout which broke my heart a little when he left the show – and then jumped into Matt Smith’s three seasons as the Eleventh Doctor. There I got to meet Karen Gillan’s Amy and Arthur Darvill’s Rory too! Aaaaahhh…SO MANY FEELS. Anyway, so that brings us up to the present. I’ve got a few episodes and then two specials with Matt Smith left and then I’ll be starting Peter Capaldi’s run as the Twelfth Doctor.
All this is to say, I’ve spent a lot of time with this show over the last five months. I am so into Doctor Who I’ve still only seen two episodes of Stranger Things 2 (okay, okay, I know…I KNOW) and I’ve only watched one or two episodes of The Punisher. I can’t even begin to think about starting Black Mirror yet, even though several people have told me I’d love it and I know the fourth season just came out. The reason I can’t watch anything else is, quite simply, I’ve come to love Doctor Who so much that anytime I have a free moment to watch something on TV, nothing is as appealing as spending more time with the Doctor.
As I’ve been learning all about the Doctor, the TARDIS, the Doctor’s companions, Gallifrey, Daleks and Cybermen and Silurians and the Ood and Sontarans and the Weeping Angels and the Silence and all these wonderful alien races I realized I’d been doing so pretty much in a vacuum. I mean, this is 2018 right? We live in the Internet Age and that means we also live in the Age of Spoilers (both intentional and accidental). In an effort to avoid accidentally spoiling anything for myself, I’ve read nothing about Doctor Who online. In fact, outside of googling a viewing order to make certain I was watching the Christmas specials at the right place in the seasons, I had never typed “Doctor Who” into Google before this post when I wanted to double check my spelling of the alien races listed above.
I watch the show via Amazon (which, if you don’t have Amazon Prime but are considering getting it, let me tell you it’s totally worth it for Doctor Who alone) and talk about it all the time with Theresa at work. Kalie and Jeff have heard (a lot) about my love of this show. Kalie’s watched a few episodes with me too! I also talk about it with the family and a few other close friends. Outside of that – there’s nothing. It’s just me and this show.
I had no other intention in avoiding Doctor Who-related articles or videos or Twitter conversations outside of keeping myself spoiler-free as I watched this series the first time. However, it’s yielded far more than a simple spoiler-free experience. I’ve found a sort of pure joy in falling in love with a show like this. It takes me back to my youth. When I started watching He-Man or the Ninja Turtles or Ghostbusters or Star Wars or MacGyver or reading about Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four and the X-Men the only way I could learn more about their worlds was a) reading/watching more and b) having conversations with family and friends who liked it too. There was no internet, no Twitter, no message boards, no comment sections. It was a completely organic relationship, learning more about the characters as their stories unfolded before me, forming my opinions as I went. I’d forgotten what this was like!
When I first watched Stranger Things (the first season (because, yes, I still haven’t finished the second season (because I’m only two episodes in (I know I’ve had plenty of time (but C’MON there are so many Doctor Who episodes waiting for me!!! (so I’m not even sorry or sad about it (Stranger Things 2 will be there once I’m done getting caught up with the Time Lord))))))) I obviously went in spoiler-free. But I’d still read several blog posts about it beforehand and I knew it was this mash-up of 1980’s fantasy/horror/sci-fi/adventure films and had this super cool nostalgic feel. I knew loads of people were loving it. I watched those eight episodes and then started reading articles, analyses, and fan theories about it. I followed the actors and the Duffer Brothers on Twitter. I immersed myself in the larger world around Stranger Things because that’s what you do right?
But with Doctor Who – with eleven whole seasons just in the modern run and many specials to get caught up on – I’ve spent months with the show without reading anything about it. I’m watching it whenever I can. I’m talking about all my thoughts and feels with Theresa. I’m thinking and theorizing and speculating and just daydreaming about it on my own. Once you have the TARDIS on the brain, it’s hard to think of anything else :). It’s been so much fun!
With the internet, we have the potential to connect with so many people in an instant and we have so much information at our fingertips. It’s a powerful tool. But, as is often the case, our technology has progressed faster than our emotional maturity to handle it has developed. This leads to the toxic experience of fandom. To be clear about my terms, for me, I see a big difference between fans (the people who love something) and fandom (the amorphous entity of people who like to do battle online over their opinions as though they were the keys to heaven and judge who’s experiences in regard to whatever show/movie/comic/book/etc. is being discussed are “right” and “wrong”).
All this, the toxicity of fandom, takes the fun out of being a fan and falling in love with fictional characters and their worlds. The Last Jedi came out twenty-five days ago and people are still arguing about whether it’s “good” or “bad.” I’m not talking about fun debates about what we liked or didn’t. I’m talking hateful bullying paired with a side of the worst sort of zealotry. When I returned to reading comic books I found this sort of thing to be a cancer spreading on letter pages and all places where people discuss comics and comic characters across the internet too. Of course not everyone is like this. Thank God! There are plenty of passionate and wonderful fans out there. They are, thankfully, the majority. They don’t all agree on everything either but they know how to behave and accept one another’s opinions. But these fandom things? No thank you.
I get exhausted, frustrated, and disappointed by Star Wars fans, Marvel fans, Ghostbuster fans, and so many others online too. I don’t care about the arguments. I don’t care about the zealotry. I don’t care to get involved in all the fighting. But knowing it’s happening still makes my heart hurt a little bit. I love Star Wars. I love Marvel Comics. I love Ghostbusters. And knowing some “fans” will treat others with such toxicity in the name of loving Star Wars or Marvel or Ghostbusters or whatever, makes me sad. I don’t like when something I love is used by others in exclusionary and/or hurtful ways. That’s not love either. If you’re bullying and excluding and yelling and judging someone over something you supposedly love, you don’t love it. Those actions aren’t born of love. They are born of the dangerous delusions of possession and ownership and they’re the mark of an unhealthy relationship.
With Doctor Who, to be sure I’ve found no accidental spoilers (just as River Song would want it!), I haven’t seen how Whovians behave online. If this sort of discord is out there, I haven’t seen it. Conversely, they may all be wonderful people! As I said, I’ve no way of knowing :). Either way, I’ve been completely disconnected from anything in the world surrounding Doctor Who. My whole experience is made up of my watching the show and talking about it with Theresa, Kalie, Jeff, and a few other close friends and family. I’ve gotten all the joy of falling in love with this show without the anxiety and sadness that fandoms cause. Watching Doctor Who has reminded me of something I’d forgotten, something that was once so natural and now is so rare. Being a fan means loving something and sharing that love with others. There’s no place for those who want to hate, judge, and fight. Our mutual loves used to bond us, not give us another avenue for discord. With Doctor Who I’ve found that most beautiful and organic of joys once again. I’ve become a fan devoid of any fandoms.